Some cyber criminals are earning more than £750,000 each year from the scams, which see computer owners tricked in to downloading and installing fake antivirus software on to their machines, believing they're protecting their PC from hackers.
In fact, the downloaded software often provides cyber criminals with a "back door" into the machine, which they can access remotely, while the transaction process itself means that a computer user has unwittingly shared their credit card details with fraudsters.
Security experts estimate that around 40 million people worldwide have fallen victim to these scams in the last year. The firm has identified more than 250 versions of this software, known as "scareware".
Scareware vendors go to great lengths to intimidate and trick web users into purchasing this malicious software. They use pop-up adverts, designed to look exactly like legitimate alert messages from reputable antivirus companies, to lull web users into a false sense of security. These boxes often appear when users switch between programs and websites, warning the user that their computer has been compromised and is at risk unless they immediately install tools to protect it.
Hackers with always-on remote access to a machine could use that connection to harvest details of bank logins or other security codes, or even pull the computer into a giant "botnet", a network of compromised machines that send out spam messages, or help to propagate the spread of viruses, unbeknown to the computer user.
Security experts have warned computer users not to buy antivirus or security software from unsolicited pop-up adverts, but to ensure that they buy such programs directly through the official website of antivirus companies, or on CD from their local computer shop.
Tempting You to Click
Online advertising is so pervasive that most people barely glance at it. Advertising has become part of the Internet landscape. One way that advertisers are hoping to stir interest is to put their advertising on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. For example, on Twitter, you would see someone you follow post a link. A click leads to advertising. This has been called in-stream advertising. It carries the weight of someone with whom you have some familiarity online, and it increases the chances that you will click and look at that link.
This type of advertising also provides hackers and criminals another way to access your computer. That person you follow online may have his/her account hacked and may be unknowingly serving up malicious links.
This is just one scheme to deliver malware to your computer. By the time this paragraph is read, there will be new means to spread malware.
That is why security programs are necessary for protecting your computer from these infections.
There are drive-by downloads that can install malware on your machine, without your even having to click a link. Sometimes, a person is just tired and errors are made. Hackers count on such errors and an absolutely necessary protection is an excellent security regime on your computer. You should have an anti-virus, a firewall, and at least one anti-spyware program running at all times.